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Celluosic Ethanol A?Key To National Security

By Staff | Nov 10, 2009

A?PEACEFUL?BATTLEFIELD - Retired four-star General Wesley Clark likened the cornfields of Palo Alto County to a battlefield in the effort to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. According to Clark, the work of farmers, such as those in Palo Alto County, are just as vital to the national security as the efforts of troops deployed throughout the world. Clark’s remarks came at the POET?Cob Harvest Field Day last Tuesday in Emmetsburg. "We are involved in something that is historic," Clark said. "We are going to significantly reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources, and we will strengthen America's national security." -- Dan Voigt photo

It wasn’t a call to arms as much as it was a wake-up call – a call given by retired Four-Star General Wesley Clark to a crowd of over 200 last Tuesday at the POET Cob Harvest Field Day in Emmetsburg. Clark, who now serves as co-chair of Growth Energy, a trade organization that promotes the ethanol industry, told the crowd that the cellulosic ethanol process developed by POET and known as Project Liberty, has tremendous ramifications for the United States.

“It is about national security or not being dependent on foreign oil,” Clark said. “As far back as the Vietnam conflict, I predicted that our nation was headed to a huge reliance on foreign oil. One of the papers that I wrote at that time predicted that someday, somehow, we might have to station U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf to protect the United States access to oil. People at the Pentagon were horrified that I wrote that, because they were afraid they’d be accused of trying to start a war. Why can’t we as a nation, be smart enough to see the problems coming and get out of the way, instead of asking our young men and women to go out there and fight and die for something you can buy in the marketplace or develop in your own country? That’s why I am a strong believer in biofuels and ethanol in particular.”

According to Clark, the current limit of a 10 percent blend of ethanol in gasoline needs to be raised to a 15-percent limit.

“If the U.S. moved to E-15 from E-10, it could stop importing one million barrels of imported oil a day,” Clark said. “That’s the same amount of oil that that Hugo Chavez is selling in to the American market. We can stop what is one of the greatest transfers of wealth in the history of mankind – $300 to $500 billion a year going out of the United States to people like Chavez who don’t share our interests and use that money directly to come back and harm the American people, our businesses, our values an our interests abroad. It is about national security in the sense of not being dependant on foreign oil.”

Clark also cited the National Security of reducing Greenhouse gases, noting that the current use of carbon-based fuels was increasing the greenhouse gases by the rate of 1.7 parts per million per year, meaning more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“Corn-based Ethanol has 60 percent less greenhouse gases in its entire life cycle than does gasoline,” Clark pointed out. “As week continue to work with ethanol and move to cellulosic, we’ll be 80 to 90 percent better, and that’s vital to National Security as well, because climate change creates conditions of disorder and disruption. We’ll be sending our military all over the world, trying to deal with plagues, political uprisings and natural catastrophes and other things.”

Clark noted that the amount of money spent by the United States to import oil could be much better spent in our own country. “Look at the nation of Dubai, the center of the Middle Eastern oil industry, all that is Dubai, the gigantic skyscrapers, the islands that are in the shape of a palm tree – the money to build all of that came from us.”

“Ethanol is big business now. It’s 500,000 jobs, it’s $66-billion dollars and we’ve got the technology and the skills and the energy to take this all the way.” Clark said. “We’re involved in something historic.”

Clark noted that at one time, the idea of gasohol and ethanol was considered a ‘political joke’

“This is no joke,” Clark said with conviction. “This is critical to America’s national security. This is the next stage, going from corn to feed stocks. We can significantly reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources. We can strengthen America’s National Security, and we can make it much less likely in the future that our sons and daughters and grandchildren are going to be sent overseas to fight a war in some part of the world just because we got oil there.”

“Every farmer is a force in and of himself in this battle for energy independence,” Clark noted. “If this country was not self-sufficient in the production of food, we’d be in real trouble. There are so many people on either coast who don’t have any contact with America’s agricultural community that they take it for granted. That food is the hard work of men and women in places like Iowa, and in terms of the energy, that’s the bonus. Right here in America, we have the opportunity to create our own growth fuel, right here on our own land, and that’s pretty exciting.”

Clark went on to note that a few years back, the petroleum industry did launch a campaign years ago against the ethanol industry, trying to blame ethanol for the increases in food prices.

“The petroleum industry will adapt,” Clark noted. “They’re buying ethanol plants because they want to be in the fuel industry, but, they have to understand that while there will always be a place for the petroleum industry, biofuels are going to be a major part of that industry in the 21st century”

But, perhaps the biggest hurdle for biofuels remains one of education of the public about the fuels, according to Clark.

“It starts with people not really understanding the incredible productivity of the American farmer. If you look at data on corn productivity, every year, on average, we’re better by two or three percent on yield than we were the year before,” Clark noted. “That’s just a tremendous bounty. So, when people put together their mathematical models that say it can’t be done, they don’t understand who we Americans are. They don’t understand the technology, the innovation, the forces of the marketplace, the skill and education of the American farmer and the whole system that stands behind the farmer. It is one of the greatest forces for progress in the history of mankind, out here on the Great Plains.”